Dorothy Crenshaw September 8, 2015 | 11:32:51

6 Ways PR Can Build Influence

For a brand that suffers from lack of visibility, the awareness generated by a strategic PR campaign is a worthy goal. A product launch, a better technology, a new startup — all depend on breaking through to accomplish business objectives.

But we don’t give PR enough credit when we define it as an awareness-generating tool. First, because PR goes well beyond publicity. But it’s also because the right kind of PR can do much more than generate visibility. Awareness is just a starting point.

At the end of the day, what most professional communicators – and our clients – are after is a degree of influence. We want to provoke thought, persuade, even to change behavior. That need – to build upon simple awareness to promote action – is why PR strategies and earned media results need to include more sophisticated tactics designed to exert influence. Here are the most effective ways.

Earned media and content that educates. Unlike paid most advertising, earned media and shared content can offer the depth to offer insights, mount arguments, or explain a poorly understood issue or position. Think opinion pieces and talk radio interviews that unpack a complex issue or rebut arguments.

Harnessing peer power, usually through social influence. “A person like me” is perceived as more credible than celebrities or institutions when it comes to influence, according to Edelman’s trust barometer.

Inspiring through storytelling. A true story about a transformation and its impact can be very powerful. Again, the experience of peers can be more credible than that of rented experts, and when a strong emotional component is present, it’s an unbeatable argument for change.

Using earned media in marketing. This can be as simple as using product or entertainment reviews in ads. When it comes to purchase consideration, timing is everything, so earned media + paid media = a strong selling proposition.

Rewarding action. PR doesn’t exist in a vacuum – or at least, it shouldn’t. When linked with a compelling promotional offer or incentive, the influence of its message can be increased exponentially.

Leveraging public opinion. Public pressure works. By giving regular citizens the tools and information to press for action over time, PR is at its most powerful. Tools like online petitions, grassroots organizing, customer boycotts, and simple content sharing around a strong idea is where PR comes together with social media and digital marketing to make real change.

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